The city of Encinitas must be held responsible and accountable for its plans to “improve,” or change, Coast Highway.
Our community has been unsuccessful in getting the city to agree to make the changes in a such a way that they will not negatively affect Fire Department access to our homes west of the highway.
This is a time-critical issue as the Encinitas City Council will be voting on the plan at its regular meeting Wednesday.
The plan, called “North Coast Highway 101 Streetscape Project,” is an outline that will likely change Coast Highway in a way that not only will fail to meet, but will fall significantly below, Encinitas Fire Code specifications, Encinitas General Plan specifications and Encinitas Road Standards specifications.
These changes will certainly impede and delay the potential emergency response times to the community of about 1,000 homes west of Coast Highway between Encinitas Boulevard and La Costa Avenue and the three dedicated beach accesses in the area.
There are two options in consideration and up for City Council review on Wednesday.
One is “option 4A” and the other “option 5.” They both implement “traffic calming measures” that will significantly delay Fire Department response abilities.
The most drastic is option 4A. This option will incorporate multiple one-lane roundabouts that are below U.S. Department of Transportation size specifications for a four-lane major arterial right-of-way such as Coast Highway, and a complete elimination of a northbound lane for approximately two miles. The new planned northbound lane will have an overall improved width of 20 feet, curb to curb, with roundabout entrances at 16 feet.
Currently, the Encinitas Fire Department does not meet its response time goal of five minutes or less 80 percent of the time to the 1,000 homes in the area of the mentioned above.
According to records provided to me by Encinitas Fire Department, in the last three years it has met the response goal of five minutes or less only 45 percent of the time. Also, it cannot provide any precedent for a major arterial right-of-way like Coast Highway being changed as proposed in the leading options.
I have been employed by the Los Angeles Fire Department for the past 23 years as a firefighter/paramedic and a firefighter/engineer, and I have been driving fire engines and ambulances for the city of Los Angeles for the past 20 years. I have a firsthand working knowledge of how road design and traffic conditions can potentially delay response times, and how these potential delays can negatively affect the overall outcomes for people and property that need the service of a fire department.
Since April, we have made multiple attempts to contact and inform our City Council and city management of our concerns via letters, phone calls, community petitions, e-mails and attendance at council meetings and project workshops. We have received minimal to no response from the city.
What we would like see from the city is a serious response to our concerns and some investigation into what other municipalities have done to accommodate both walking paths and bike paths near railroad tracks, as has been done in San Clemente, instead of compromising a major arterial right-of-way like Coast Highway as the current plans will do.
Smith is an Encinitas resident.